Archives Exhibition Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Black Student Sit-In at Wilbur Cross Library in 1974

Anthropology Protest, Nutmeg 1974

Please Respond Personally: Commemorating the 1974 Black Student Sit-In 

March 11th – July 19th, 2024, Schimmelpfeng Gallery, Monday – Friday, 9-4pm 

Dodd Center for Human Rights, University of Connecticut 

Exhibit Opening Event: March 28th, 3-5pm @ Archives & Special Collections, Dodd Center

Opening to the public Monday, March 11th, 2024, the UConn Library’s Archives & Special Collections will mount a 50th Anniversary Exhibition commemorating the direct action taken by Black and Brown students on the Storrs campus to challenge structural racism in higher education by sitting in at the Wilbur Cross Library on April 22nd 1974.  This historic event of activism, where roughly 370 students occupied the library at varying times across 3 days, was the culminating event during a semester long campaign of student organizing to demand representation and resources for students of color at the University of Connecticut.  Through curated documents this exhibition will feature the perspectives of the student organizers, the Afro-American Cultural Center, the University and its administration to portray this campus-wide call to action which resonates to our present day.  This 50th anniversary is also an opportunity to highlight approaches to student activism and the centrality of the library as an institutional setting both for democracy and also one vulnerable to upholding systems of oppression. 

This exhibition draws from the experiences of alumni Rodney Bass (’75BA/’76MA) who read the demands during the sit-in and was co-chair of the Organization of African American Students (OAAS). The archives podcast d’Archive produced an interview with Rodney about Black student organizing in the mid-1970s on the Storrs campus which is revealing in understanding their approach to making demands upon the university for their representation in the student body.

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About Graham Stinnett

Curator of Human Rights Collections and Alternative Press Collections, Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut. Stinnett holds a Master’s degree in Archival Studies from the History Department at the University of Manitoba, where he also earned a Bachelor’s degree in Latin American History. Stinnett's graduate work focused on human rights non-governmental organizations and their importance to archives and the role of archivist as activist. He has published in the Progressive Librarian on the subject. Stinnett has worked in University Archives with human rights collections at UC Boulder, Manitoba and UConn. His involvement with the Manitoba Gay and Lesbian Archives collection project and the LGBTTQ Oral History Initiative, the El Salvador Human Rights Archive at Boulder and the extensive AltPress & Human Rights Archives at UConn have resulted in a multitude of engagement and outreach activities. He also briefly served as the Archivist for the Vancouver Whitecaps Football Club in British Columbia.

3 thoughts on “Archives Exhibition Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Black Student Sit-In at Wilbur Cross Library in 1974

  1. My name is Nathaniel James Bracey. I graduated from UConn May 1976. I was one of the organizers of the Library sit in protest. Subsequently I served as co-editor of the student newspaper Contact and President of OAAS from 1974-1975.
    I was also one of the few African American students from out of state; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    The protest, along with the 13 demands for greater equity for African American students was the most pivotal event in the university’s history and perhaps still so. Why? Because it begin the institutional and behavioral transformation of the university from being an high achieving academic and non inclusive, racially hostile university to being a high achieving academic, ready to embrace racial diversity, university.

  2. I participated in the library protest. I was one of the organizers. However two of the principal organizers, at the time PH.D candidate, Gene C. Young, (deceased) and Gary King, still living, in my opinion along with a few others lead the rest of us to stage not only a protest, but they help executed a plan where very little property was damage and no one suffered any injuries outside of some minor cuts and bruises sustained while being arrested by State Police. Because of the absence of injuries and property damage, the protest and our accompanying demands for greater equity rightfully received the attention we were all seeking. Dr. Young and Dr. King along with a few others and hundreds of courageous students, forever change for the better, UConn’s destiny from being a racially hostile high performing university to a more inclusive and caring university. A plaque should be installed on campus especially in or outside of the library denoting this momentous occasion listing the names of the participating protest students, beginning with Dr. Gene C. Young and Dr. Gary King

    • Thank you very much Mr. Bracey for sharing your experience as an alumni who took part in this historic protest on our campus! Your’s is the kind of personal reflection we look for to enhance the archival collections that we preserve. I look forward to communicating with you further about programs that are accompanying this anniversary exhibition and please stay in touch.

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